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EU Council expands scope of biometrics in Schengen Information System

EU Council expands scope of biometrics in Schengen Information System

The European Union Council has announced the adoption of a set of updated rules for the Schengen Information System which significantly expand the biometric data that can be included. The changes are intended to address potential gaps and introduce new categories of alerts to ensure a high level of security across the EU, and help with migration management.

Three new regulations have been adopted, in the areas of police and judicial cooperation on criminal matters, border checks, and the return of illegally residing third-country nationals. The Council has introduced “inquiry checks” which allow people to be interviewed as an intermediary step between discreet and specific checks. “Unknown suspects or wanted persons” alerts provide for latent fingerprints or palm prints discovered at the scenes of serious crimes or terrorist incidents and are considered to belong to the perpetrator to be entered into the SIS.

Alerts have also been created for children at risk of parental abduction, children and vulnerable persons who need to be prevented from travelling for their own protection, and for purpose of return.

Along with the introduction of latent biometrics, the new rules allow facial images to be used for identification purposes, and DNA profiles to be included to facilitate the identification of missing persons in situations in which other biometrics or identifiers are not available or suitable for use.

“The Schengen Information System has already been a success story in EU cooperation on security. The updated SIS rules will allow us to build on this even further,” comments Minister of the Interior of Austria Herbert Kickl. “By introducing new categories of alerts we will be able to adapt to changing needs and close gaps.”

The rules for information sharing were also broadened, giving Europol greater access to SIS data, granting the European Border and Coast Guard Agency access to alerts, and making it mandatory for member states to inform Europol of hits on terrorist suspects.

The changes will become official 20 days after they are signed and entered into the EU Official Journal, though some of the new SIS features are still in development and will be introduced after legal and technical preconditions are met.

SITA recently compared the EU’s incoming biometric border control system with those in place in other jurisdictions.

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